What to Study and Where
Qualifications and Courses
There are five levels of qualification (or award) in Irish higher education. These levels, together with another five from other parts of the education system, make up the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). Levels 6 to 10 are higher education qualifications; from a higher certificate at Level 6 to a PhD at Level 10.
There are three types of full-time undergraduate higher education qualifications you can pursue:
Level 6 – Higher Certificate
Level 7 – Ordinary Bachelor Degree
Level 8 – Honours Bachelor Degree
In addition to these ‘major’ awards, there are a range of other awards (often gained through part-time study) made at each of the levels, known as minor, supplemental or special purpose awards. Further information about these and other aspects of the NFQ is available in the Frequently Asked Questions section of the NFQ website.
The length of a course can vary, depending on how and where it is offered. For example, distance education can be structured quite differently to a full-time course on campus. In general, however, a higher certificate course requires two years of full-time study; an ordinary bachelor degree three years; and an honours bachelor degree three or more years.
Part-time study in higher education is the only realistic option for many people. This route generally takes longer than studying full-time but the benefits are the same at the end of the process.
Structure of Courses
Higher education courses can vary greatly in their day-to-day lecture workload, depending on the field of study and on whether it is part-time or full-time. Don’t forget to check this out as part of your research. Also, if you are interested in work placement modules within courses (either at home or abroad) or the option to study abroad for a period of a course, make sure to find out if courses on your shortlist offer these opportunities.
Your Interests are Key
Your own interests and strengths are key to choosing the right higher education course for you. You may already have a vocational area targeted or you may want to choose a broad field of study, for instance in the Arts, Humanities or Sciences. The key to making a good decision is to get as much guidance as you can and to do plenty of research on your own interests and strengths, on jobs and careers that might be of interest, and on the courses that could go on your ‘shortlist’. Don’t forget to investigate individual courses. Besides different levels of qualification, some courses can take a more practical approach than others.